October 13

By Elliott Davis Jr.

The Treasury Department’s Office of the Inspector General is investigating whether Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis improperly used coronavirus relief funds to transport migrants to Massachusetts following a request from members of the latter state’s congressional delegation.

The news comes weeks after the DeSantis administration sent two planes of about 50 Venezuelan nationals from Texas to the wealthy enclave of Martha’s Vineyard with a stop in Florida along the way, drawing outrage for what some – including President Joe Biden – have called a political stunt. Biden dismissed the ploy at the time and said Republicans are “playing politics with human beings, using them as props.”

Sen. Edward Markey, Massachusetts Democrat, on Wednesday released a response the delegation recently received from the department’s Office of the Inspector General, which noted that it has “already sought information from Florida about appropriate use of” federal coronavirus relief funds and will look into whether using those funds for immigration activities is allowable. Deputy Inspector General Richard Delmar said in the letter that the office plans “to get this work underway as quickly as possible.”

“I applaud the swift response from the Treasury’s Office of the Inspector General,” Markey said in a statement. “For the sake of the migrants who were lured onto charter planes under false pretenses, and for the commendable Commonwealth residents who rallied together to offer support, I hope that this investigation sheds light on whether Governor DeSantis misused funds that were intended for COVID relief for Floridians.”

DeSantis had said he planned to use $12 million allocated by the Florida state legislature toward the migrant relocation efforts. That funding is available via interest earnings associated with COVID-19 relief, according to the Massachusetts delegation’s letter to the Treasury Department, which cited the Florida statute.

“Treasury faces immense challenges in ensuring that the programs achieve their intended purpose, provide for accountability and transparency, and are free from fraud and abuse,” the Office of the Inspector General’s website reads, referring to its oversight of coronavirus relief funds.

The Treasury Department’s press office did not respond to a request for comment on the probe.